NEW YORK (
Lenovo will introduce an updated line-up of smartphones at next week's CES gathering in Las Vegas. But don't expect to find any of them for sale in the United States anytime soon.
Lenovo is the top PC manufacturer in the world. It is also second when it comes to selling smartphones in the world's largest market. In mid-2013, Samsung held first place in China with a 21% share. Lenovo's Google (GOOG) Android-based models had 13%. ZTE and Apple (AAPL) each controlled 10% of the market and Huawei was in fifth with 9%.
At the top of Lenovo's new smartphone line is the ultra-thin "Vibe Z." It's the first Lenovo model to feature LTE capabilities. The Vibe Z has a lightweight titanium shell and measures only 5.9 mm (0.22 inches) thick. Combined with a Qualcomm (QCOM) 800 processor, 5.5-inch (1920 by 1080 and a 400 pixel density per inch) display, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, 13 and 5 megapixel cameras and Android 4.3, the "Z" will be one very potent flagship device.
We were lucky to have seen a sample of the original Vibe smartphone a few months ago and were amazed at just how thin and light the phone was in person. The photos don't do it justice.
The Vibe Z will retail for $549 (unlocked) when it goes on sale in February in a limited number of Pacific Rim and Middle Eastern markets.
Other new smartphones to be announced include the S930 ($319, 6-inch, 1280 by 720 pixel screen and the S650 ($229, 4.7-inch, 960 by 540 pixels) display. Both will sport 8 MP cameras on the back, 8 GB of storage, dual SIM card capabilities and will be powered by a MediaTek quad-core processor and Android 4.2.
There is also a new A859 ($219) offering a 5-inch display and what Lenovo calls "great all around performance".
These models will be available "in countries where Lenovo smartphones are sold."
Unfortunately, Lenovo is still not ready to unleash its smartphones in Europe or North or South America just yet. Lenovo gives no word on why or when. One source told me "not coming to U.S. any time soon " but wouldn't elaborate.
In mid-2013, Milko van Duijl,pPresident of Asia-Pacific and Latin America markets, said the company was busy expanding the smartphone and tablet end of its business and was focused on "emerging markets" for its smart[phone offerings.
van Duijl told The Wall Street Journal: "Over time we will look at mature markets like Europe and the U.S., but that is not yet in the plan. That is going to take us a lot more time to get ready for such an expansion."
Lenovo sold its original smartphone and tablet business in 2008 for $100 million and then paid $200 million to get it back a year later. Recently, the company has been rumored to be interested in other smartphone companies including BlackBerry (BBRY). Lenovo acquired International Business Machines' (IBM) personal computing business in 2005 for $1.25 billion.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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